Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rejected Tuesday a petition demanding his office reveal details about an investigation into suspected corruption in the purchase of naval vessels from Germany, saying that to do so would jeopardize a probe that has already implicated a string of current and former senior politicians and military officials.
The petition also sought to force Mandelblit to interrogate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a suspect in the affair, despite the fact that the attorney general has said he isn’t a suspect.
Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and a former aide have both been questioned as suspects in the investigation into suspicions that Israeli officials were bribed in a multi-billion shekel purchase of boats and submarines from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp. The affair has roiled Israel’s political scene and been described as one of the largest corruption scandals in the country’s history with new suspects announced every few weeks.
On Tuesday, officials revealed that former elite naval commando unit head Brigadier General (res.) Shay Brosh had been arrested on suspicion of taking bribes, fraud, and breach of trust.
“Law enforcement authorities cannot reveal at any given moment the findings that they have collected and the steps they plan to take,” Mandelblit’s office said in response to the High Court of Justice petition. It said that to reveal such details would impede law enforcement’s “ability to do their jobs” and that they do not fall under the public’s right to know.
The petition was filed last month by social activist Aybee Binyamin who has helped organize a sustained campaign targeting Mandelblit for allegedly protecting Netanyahu — the man who appointed him — and dragging his feet in several active investigations involving the prime minister.
Activists have been staging regular protests near the home of the attorney general in Petah Tikva, outside Tel Aviv, demanding that he indict the prime minister in the two investigations against him and name him as a suspect in the submarine probe.
In his petition Binyamin argued that the course the investigation has taken so far “is sufficient to reach the simple conclusion that in the matter of the Prime Minister a ‘reasonable suspicion’ has been formulated that requires the opening of a criminal investigation against him.”
Mandelblit’s response dismissed the petition saying it is “part of a campaign aimed at putting pressure on the enforcement authorities to make one decision or another. That cannot be allowed.”
Binyamin commented on Mandelblit’s response with a tweet saying “once again Mandelblit and [State Prosecutor Shai] Nitzan are dodging [responsibility] in their responses to the High Court giving any specific answer as to why, despite what Ya’alon said and the grave investigations Netanyahu is not being investigated in Case 3000.” The tweet referenced former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, who in July said that there was “no way” Netanyahu was not involved in the submarine affair. Ya’alon was defense minister when the suspicion-plagued deal was formed.
On Monday, Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg, a former minister and associate of Netanyahu was named as another suspect in the ever-expanding corruption investigation. The same day police named Rami Taib, a senior aide to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, as a suspect in the investigation. Taib was arrested on suspicion of bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a crime. Steinitz has not be identified as a suspect in the case, but was expected to give police testimony.
A day earlier six suspects were arrested in connection with the case including David Sharan, who served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief from late 2014 to 2016, and who is suspected of bribe-taking, fraud, breach of trust, and conspiring to commit a crime. Also arrested were senior reserve IDF officers and strategic adviser Nati Mor, who has worked with several senior government officials.
The suspects were reportedly rounded up based on information gleaned from state witness Miki Ganor, the local representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp.
Investigators suspect that Ganor, along with former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, paid bribes in connection with the decision to buy three submarines from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the Israeli Defense Ministry.
They also reportedly influenced decisions to buy naval corvettes to protect Israel’s offshore gas fields and awarded ThyssenKrupp a contract to service other naval vessels.
While Netanyahu is not suspected in the case, his personal lawyer, Shimron, has been questioned several times by Lahav 433, the police anti-corruption unit.
When he turned state’s witness in July, Ganor was suspected of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit a crime. He has reportedly been transferred to a police safe house.